Wellness & Travel: Small changes that make a significant impact
We are not wired well to deal with uncertainty. Most of us love a sense of order and predictability. Chaos and the random nature of life is unnerving to say the least.
When most of us sit with that “not knowing” feeling, we become anxious and our brains go into overdrive, trying to latch on to possible answers. We convince ourselves that maybe if we understand the numbers or move to the middle of nowhere, or wash our hands constantly, we’ll be fine. But the “not knowing” feeling stays with us, until it bubbles up and sends us into panic mode.
It’s the desire for certainty that causes us to suffer more than the uncertainty itself.This is why we are always on the lookout for that “one thing.” A magic pill, supplement, book or action that promises to be the answer. Most of the time we end up back at square one because honestly, a real solution is not the result of “one thing” alone.
Almost everyone is biased towards single, big changes rather than accruing many small, regular changes that create greater benefits. That’s what the real secret is, building up many small changes.
As an example, wearing a surgical mask is better than nothing, but ultimately not that helpful. On the other hand, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting enough vitamin D and good hygiene practices will keep you as healthy as possible for as long as possible. The single best thing you can do right now is all the same stuff you should have been doing anyway – eating well, avoiding excess sugar, not smoking, and of course, washing your hands often.
With that said, here are a few things to keep refining:
- The basics
Eat well, sleep well, and move regularly.
Your physical health and mental health are intertwined, and whilst there is heightened anxiety, it’s even more important to make sure you’re getting good sleep and eating well.
Exercise is even more critical, as you’ll be more sedentary than usual. There’s no shortage of videos online for little exercise routines you can do from home to suit your taste.
- Structure your day
When a wrench is thrown into your day to day life, and what was predictable goes out the window, bring back some routine to help ground yourself. This is especially true if you’re in the same space for a longer period of time.
Build yourself a structure for your day – ideally similar to what you are already accustomed to: getting dressed, having breakfast, and then your working day. Similarly, at the end of your day, shut your monitor off, stop checking emails, and ‘finish working’ at the normal time.
Start new “rituals.” This could entail a walk first thing in the morning or speaking to a family member every morning on FaceTime.
Schedule time for lunch breaks, cups of coffee, even slacking off.
- Don’t rely on text based messaging
It’s incredibly easy to respond to text messages to keep in touch with colleagues, friends and family. The issue with text based messaging is that they all lack the nuance of face to face and non-verbal communication.
Make a phone call, do a video chat, do a group call. Not everyone likes video calls but they’re a much richer way of communicating, and everyone will feel less disconnected.
- Limit “news and incoming information
The beauty of social media is that it can create wonderful communities and relationships across the world. But it also poses a very real problem, the constant onslaught of information. Our days almost seem divided anxious minutes and hours in between these refreshes. We are addicted but not informed. The information is flowing in constantly and honestly, most of it is not that helpful.
Pick a few resources, the World Health Organization, some local news sources for example and stick to those for updates. The rest of it is mostly noise, and will do more to rile you up than provide anything useful or of value.
- Ask “how are you?” and mean it
Listen and share with people you trust. I can safely say that most of us are having difficulties right now, and while we all know it, we are often terrible at talking about it.
Ask people how they are. Give people an opportunity to share if they’re struggling, and talk it through. If someone asks you, be honest. If you’re struggling, say so. Often, just the simple act of saying it out loud helps, and helps others know they can be honest if they’re struggling too.
If you are really feeling low or struggling with feelings of isolation, there are people who can help.
Dr. Tal Friedman is the Head Naturopath and Research & Development Specialist at Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand. Chiva-Som Thailand is Asia’s renowned and pioneering destination wellness resort. www.chivasom.com ◼
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© This article was first published online in Apr 2020 – World Travel Magazine.